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Miami Nation scores another legislative win with land measure

Leaders of the Miami Nation of Oklahoma, from left: Secretary-Treasurer Sarah Lawson, Second Chief Dustin Olds, Chief Doug Lankford, First Councilperson Donya Williams and Second Councilperson Scott Willard. Photo from Miami Nation

A bill to resolve land issues for the Miami Nation of Oklahoma is on its way to President Barack Obama for his signature.

The Senate passed H.R.487 by unanimous consent last Thursday. The bill, which cleared the House last September by a voice vote, allows the tribe to sell or transfer non-trust lands without running afoul of the Non-Intercourse Act.

“This bill promotes tribal self-determination by empowering the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma to more easily lease or transfer their non-trust tribal lands," Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), the chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, said in a press release.

Similar laws have been enacted for other tribes. The most recent one was H.R. 2650, for the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in Minnesota, which Obama signed into law in March 2014.

"The Indian Non-Intercourse Act is old and out of date but the Supreme Court confirmed it is still in effect," Miami Nation Chief Douglas Lankford said at a hearing on June 10, 2015.

Passage of H.R.487 marks the second legislative victory for the tribe in the 114th Congress. H.R.533, a bill that revokes an outdated and unused Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act charter, became law last July.

Stand-alone bills for tribes are common on Capitol Hill but it's rare for a tribe to win passage of more than one measure during a single legislative session.

“This legislation is important because it removes an unnecessary federal barrier for the tribe so they can conduct their affairs as they see fit," said Sen. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma).

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